The Antrobus: top-drawer design

The problem: a bag that can hold all your stuff – but so that you can still find it. The answer? It’s in the Antrobus bag.

  • Photograph courtesy Antrobus Luxury Group/Claudia Uribe Touri
  • Photograph courtesy Antrobus Luxury Group/Claudia Uribe Touri
  • Photograph courtesy Antrobus Luxury Group/Claudia Uribe Touri
  • Photograph courtesy Antrobus Luxury Group/Claudia Uribe Touri
  • Photograph courtesy Antrobus Luxury Group/Claudia Uribe Touri
  • Photograph courtesy Antrobus Luxury Group/Claudia Uribe Touri
  • Alison Antrobus. Photograph courtesy The Spanish Court Hotel/Fanz Marzouca

Tired of toting around the tools of her trade in Ziploc bags, Alison Antrobus looked for a handbag in which she could find things when she needed them. The challenge, one that plagues every woman who has ever bought a handbag, proved fascinating.

“As with most creative people, when presented with a design problem, I became obsessed with finding the solution,” she said. “As an architect my brain is already programmed to resolve design problems through the making of objects – walls, windows, furniture.”

After studying the basic design of handbags, Antrobus realised that regardless of the number of compartments in a bag, items are still loaded vertically, one on top of the other, so the user has to rummage through the bag to retrieve things.

She set out to design a bag with the emphasis on functionality, and the Antrobus Bag was born.
Hailed as ingenious and innovative by style websites and magazines worldwide, the Antrobus Bag is a convertible bag with three compartments: a clutch, carryall and a set of drawers—yes, drawers, in a handbag.

“With that thought, of the actual motion in which you store your items into bags, it occurred to me that with a drawer, things are loaded horizontally, for the most part, and therefore your items are visually and physically more accessible,” Antrobus explained.

Combining science with style, the patented Antrobus Bag struck a chord with fashionistas and became popular as soon as it was launched. The global coverage surprised its 36-year-old designer.

“In the press, what has excited me the most about how it has been received is the borders which it has crossed beyond fashion. For example: Science Daily, Gadget websites, and the international press, including the Ukraine, Italy, and Asia, to name a few. The biggest shock was the phone call from CNBC requesting that I get on a plane within 48 hours to be a guest on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.”

Antrobus said the most interesting reactions have been from men, who are thrilled that they can actually see logic behind something that has been a mystery to them for so long.

Antrobus, who gave away half of her first collection and sold the rest, said the current collection is selling brilliantly, given the tough consumer market right now. The bag retails on her website at just over US$800, but has sold on other sites for over US$1,000. With that price tag, you know the Antrobus Bag must have a celebrity following, but she refused to divulge any names.
Antrobus has built up a reputation as an architect, running her own firm, Antrobus Design Co, for about ten years, and designing posh spaces such as Badrutts Place, Prime 112, and Prime Italians in Miami. But Antrobus’ bag is a marriage of her architectural skills with her first love, fashion.

“My mother tells me that as a child I used to cut up bed sheets to make outfits. I was originally accepted to study Fashion at Rhode Island School of Design, but then quickly realised that I did not enjoy being schooled in something that had become a hobby.” Architecture also included design, but the bigger scale and its novelty attracted her. She says her signature is the emotion she brings to the spaces she designs, and her connection to the end user. Her favourite design is the one she did for the Spanish Court Hotel, a new boutique hotel in Jamaica. She was born there, and grew up in Barbados.
Antrobus also designs furniture, and has plans in the works for a furniture line.

She also lends her talents to luxury-brand watchmaker Philip Stein: she’s creative director of the international brand and is responsible for overseeing the design of their new Swiss Made collection, the design of new straps, and the creation of the new Lace collection. She’s also creating the company’s flagship store in Cozumel, Mexico.

Antrobus somehow manages to find some spare time, and plans to spend it designing more bags.

“I have sketchbooks filled with accessory designs and a closet filled with prototypes of variations of the Antrobus Bag, such as the travel bag, the baby bag. I would like to run a few more collections of the bag first – before I introduce some surprises.”

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